Tourism faces climate change – LX

The Pacific Northwest is famous for its rains, but recent climate change has brought drought, wildfires and landslides, forcing a Portland, Oregon-based travel company to restructure trips along the Pacific Gorge. Columbia River.

America’s Hub World Tours has canceled 360 trips while the Eagle Creek Fire burned in 2017, when areas along the river were closed and trees and vegetation burned. Today, the damage is still visible, and a sign along the Horsetail Falls Trail warns hikers to watch out for loose rocks, falling trees, and flash flooding.

“The environmental component is so critical that we are adjusting our tours and commentary,” said David Penilton, co-owner of America’s Hub World Tours.

A waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

Tourism is both vulnerable to climate change and contributes to greenhouse gases that aggravate global warming. By 2030, transport-related carbon dioxide emissions from tourism are expected to increase by 25% from 2016 levels, according to the United Nations World Tourism Agency, which is responsible for promoting sustainable tourism. These emissions will represent 5.3% of all man-made emissions and 22% of transport emissions. The future of tourism depends on action on both fronts, protecting the places visitors want to see and mitigating the impact of the industry.

“The cost of inaction on climate will be higher in the long term than the cost of any other crisis,” said the World Tourism Agency said in a report published in 2019.

Melanin Miami Tour Overview

In Florida, Keymia Sharpe faces another climate threat. Owner of Key2MIA, she offers a tour emphasizing the crucial role played by African Americans and West Indians in the history of Miami, her Melanin Miami Experience. She fears that important sites will fall victim to rising sea levels in the state.

Such a place is Virginia Key Beach Park, which opened in 1945 as Miami-Dade County’s “colors only” beach. It flourished for decades, but was closed in the early 1980s due to high maintenance costs. In 2008, after a $30 million masterplan restoration began, it reopened to the public for the first time.

People pick up trash on the beach for the Huddle for 100 Beach Cleanup at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 in Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

“Virginia Key Beach, it would be a shame to see such a gem truly affected where it’s no longer possible for us to have that experience or share it with those who travel here,” Sharpe said. “So that’s kind of the biggest concern for me, not really being able to share a lot of these historic gems that have been here for much longer.”

Virginia Key Beach Park sits on a 1,000-acre barrier island and is particularly susceptible to beach erosion. Parts of the park are experiencing significant erosion, according to the City of Miami, which jointly owns it with Miami-Dade County. Wooden structures called groynes, barriers built into the ocean, have halted some damage over the years, as have coastal dunes planted by volunteers, said Charles Weyman, the park’s education and outreach coordinator. .

“Without those two factors, we wouldn’t be standing on the beach,” Weyman said. “All of this would be under water. And for us, we notice that every year this sea level rise is real and it’s getting really, really worse.

Miami-Dade County, with its costly waterfront and lowland development, faces projected sea level rise of two feet or more by 2060, according to climate models. Last year, he released a strategy for living with that extra water. It would raise homes and other buildings to protect them from storm surges, build on higher ground along transit corridors, develop waterfront parks, and make more space for water in districts.

Virginia Key Beach Park plans to add a museum and it will be built, Weyman said.

“Our museum is going to be on stilts, so it’s going to be elevated and elevated because with rising sea levels, it’s not a if, but it’s a when,” he said. .

Jabari Patton, 8, whose South Carolina family was visiting local relatives, plays in Biscayne Bay off Virginia Key Beach Park, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Miami experienced heavy rain the first weekend of last June, flooding one of the attractions Sharpe includes in his Melanin Miami Experience. The Lyric Theatre, which opened in 1913 and is now owned by The Black Archives, posted photos on its Instagram showing water pooling under the stage around the seats.

Built by Geder Walker, a black man from Georgia, it was a major entertainment center for black artists in Miami, according to its history.

The theater owners were aware that the facade of the theater was below the water table, according to the Instagram post.

“But this is a first,” it read.

Florida tourism rebound

Tourism in Florida is recovering from closures during the coronavirus pandemic. The state reported a record number of travelers in the first quarter of 2022 following a COVID-induced decline. Thirty-six million people visited, surpassing even pre-pandemic figures. The number of visitors increased by more than 1.3% compared to the first quarter of 2019.

Most people are drawn to the water and the weather, but Keymia Sharpe hopes her tours will also give them a sense of not only Miami’s history, but also its fragile ecology.

“Miami is such a hub for tourism, it’s something to be concerned about,” she said.

After the pandemic hit, she found that more and more people from the Miami area were signing up for her tours, wanting to explore their own backyards.

“I think a lot of people, especially now, realize there’s so much more to Miami than the beaches,” she said. “There’s a lot of history, a lot of culture here and just, you know, kind of allowing yourself to have that moment and really think outside the box.”

Keymia Sharpe is touring Miami. It offers a Melanin Miami experience, focusing on attractions important to the city’s black history.

Early in the pandemic, tourism saw deep cuts, losing nearly $500 billion in travel spending, according to the US Travel Association. Since then, local trips have grown in popularity. Vrbo or Vacation Rental by Owner reported last year that vacation homes for short-haul trips of up to 250 miles grew more than 20% from 2019 and accounted for nearly 40% of stays booked.

A study by Expedia Group, the online travel agency, looked at sustainable travel and how it is perceived by customers. Almost 70% said it was about reducing environmental impacts, but around 65% cited both supporting local economies and supporting local cultures and communities. Three out of five travelers say they have chosen a more environmentally friendly mode of transport or accommodation, but also note the costs.

“We see ski destinations without snow in the winter. We are seeing more and more eroded beaches,” said Aditi Mohapatra, vice president of global social impact and sustainability at Expedia Group. “So there are the kind of physical manifestations of climate change that have a real impact on destinations. I think we are starting to see travelers more sensitive and aware of the impacts of climate change and the impacts of travel on climate change. So we’re starting to see more interest from travelers in sustainable travel options and solutions. »

A key discovery gave an idea of ​​the amount of work that remains to be done. Seven in 10 travelers said they felt overwhelmed beginning the process to become a more sustainable traveler.

Expedia is part of a coalition called Travalyst, a nonprofit led by Prince Harry that aims to make sustainable travel mainstream.

Fires close tourist stops

In Oregon, the Eagle Creek Fire has burned nearly 47,000 acres, closed tourist attractions and filled the Willamette Valley with smoke. The state, like other parts of the West, is experiencing a prolonged drought that could be perpetual, according to an article published in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This fire was actually the very first time in my life that we had smoke in downtown Portland, even though we had wildfires every year,” said tour guide Adam Smith.

Now the area is dealing with worsening landslides. Fences have been installed to contain falling rocks and trees. Two years ago there were two large landslides along the Columbia Scenic Highway, killing a woman and closing a section of waterfalls for six months.

“All the ice on the mountains, the glaciers are shrinking,” Smith said. “Our year-round skiing opportunities disappear on Mount Hood and the rivers are lower. And people like me who love rafting and kayaking, we have to time our trips to rivers for water flows.

A warning sign along a trail in the Columbia River Gorge. The wildfires left some areas of the trails vulnerable to loose rocks, falling trees, and flash flooding.

America’s Hub World Tours was forced to cancel or modify 600 tours due to smoke. He moved tours of the western end of the Columbia River Gorge farther east to visit other waterfalls in the gorge’s National Scenic Area. The extreme heat added other problems. Portland suffered heat waves in 2021 that pushed temperatures above 100 degrees, so the travel company limited its vans to six to eight visitors instead of 12 to 14 to keep air conditioners running.

One of the main attractions, Multnomah Falls, will try to reduce the number of daily visitors between May and October thanks to a paid and timed entry system.

Today, America’s Hub World Tours includes devastated areas on its tours, to show nature’s resilience but also the damage caused by climate change and reckless behavior. The fire was started by a teenager throwing fireworks into a canyon. The company is adding a topic on stewardship and preservation of natural areas in the hopes that it will have an effect on younger generations.

When Penilton was younger, he visited the glaciers of southern Argentina twice. The second time, he was shocked at how much they had melted, he said.

“I think it forever etched something in my memory that said, ‘Our world is changing and happening faster than I realize,'” he said.

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